Fandom: Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Characters: Megan Wheeler, Mike Logan, Alex Eames, Zach Nichols, Liz Rodgers
Summary: Danny Ross is dead, but who will tell Megan Wheeler?
Author's note: Mid-Loyalty. Title taken from the David Berkeley song of the same name. Immense thank you to neojess and nabba for looking this over and for all the suggestions. For neojess, mtwendyr and nicalamity, who each influenced this in their own way.
Word count: 2,315
Rating: PG-13 for language and descriptions of violence.
It’s nearly midnight when Mike Logan’s cell phone goes off. He’s on the couch, half-asleep, and his first thought is, “Who the fuck died?”
A year ago, a call at midnight or even four in the morning was business as usual. Then he left the Major Case Squad for a desk job. Not only was he out of the field, but he’d also taken the sergeant’s exam. He figured if John Munch could pass it, why the hell couldn’t he? He was ready for more pay and less work – frankly, it was about damn time.
It’s been almost twelve months, though, and he’s no longer used to those middle of the night calls. His confusion only grows when he reaches across the coffee table and picks up his phone (not a goddamn BlackBerry or iPhone, just a simple flip-phone that he can still barely manage). The name that flashes across the screen is one he definitely isn’t expecting. They haven’t spoken since he left Major Case. What could she possibly want at this hour?
“Logan,” he answers.
“Mike, it’s Alex.” Alex Eames’ voice is strained.
“Eames,” he says, keeping it impersonal. “What is it?”
She takes a breath and he realizes she’s trying not to cry. “It’s Ross.”
He doesn’t have to ask what she means. If anyone knows what it’s like to lose people on the job, it’s Mike Logan.
“How?” is his next question – gruff, to the point.
She explains what happened to Danny Ross as quickly as she can--about the FBI (goddamn Feds), something about Somali pirates, illegal money and finally—the only thing that really matters—a hit job.
“Shit,” he says after she’s finished explaining. “Goddamn fucking shit.”
Without a segue, Eames says, “Wheeler’s still out on maternity leave. She doesn’t—she doesn’t know yet.”
And now he knows why she called. Not to tell him about Ross—it wouldn’t have made a difference if he found out the next morning—but because of Wheeler.
“Are you going to tell her?” He’s deliberately dense. “You might want to call ahead since she’s got the baby and all.”
A flash of anger strikes Alex and she remembers why they ended things almost as quickly as they started all those years ago, when Logan first arrived at Major Case. “I was hoping you would tell her,” she snaps. “Being that you were partners for two years and you’re like a mentor to her.” If Mike Logan could ever really be a mentor to anyone, she thinks, annoyed at his immaturity.
It’s not immaturity, he thinks, because he knows it’s what she’s thinking. After all those years as a murder cop, he’s not good at delivering bad news any more--watching people cry, seeing the aftermath. He can barely handle grieving himself. The argument that ensues is reminiscent of one they had five years ago, at her house, before they ended it.
This time, Mike relents. “Fine. I’ll do it.” Not because Eames is upset, but because it’s Wheeler.
Wheeler’s the only partner since Lennie Briscoe that Mike’s felt any sort of real connection to and so he’s out the door only a couple of minutes after he hangs up with Eames.
He takes the subway to midtown, then gets off a couple of blocks away from Wheeler’s apartment. He’s only been there a couple of times, but he remembers where it is. By the time he nears her building, he’s already compartmentalized his own feelings about his former captain’s death.
It’s half past midnight when he presses the buzzer to be let up. Maybe he should have called ahead, but what sort of preamble could he possibly have given?
Megan’s finally put the baby to sleep when the buzzer goes off. She cringes and looks down at the month-old infant in her crib. Fortunately, Margo doesn’t stir. Regardless, as she walks into the living room, toward the door, Megan is ready to ream someone. She’s sure it’s Karen. Her sister never did learn about personal space or simple etiquette like calling before coming over. Why should that have changed once Megan had a baby?
“Who is it?” she asks, pressing the intercom button.
There is a moment of static and then, “It’s Logan.”
Megan is so thrown off by her old partner being at her door this late at night that it doesn’t immediately register that something could be wrong. She presses the button to unlock the door to the staircase. “Come on up.”
It’s a couple of minutes before he’s on the second floor of the apartment building, approaching her place. She hears him before he gets to the door – the distinctive lumbering she became accustomed to on the job – and opens it right when he arrives.
“Hey,” she says. “What’s up?” It’s still weird to see him in jeans and a t-shirt. He’s wearing his trademark brown leather jacket, though. It was ancient when she first met him and it’s only gotten worse for wear. This amuses her for a moment.
“Can I come in?” he asks, without greeting.
“Sure.” Megan steps aside, brows raised. “Everything okay?”
He doesn’t immediately answer, peering around her apartment like he’s casing the place. Always a cop. “How’s the baby?” he asks, stalling for a moment.
“She’s good. Asleep finally, though who knows for how long,” Megan says. She’s going to say something about the buzzer, how he should’ve called her, but the look of dread on his face stops her. “Mike, what the hell are you doing here?”
He’s not Goren or Nichols or Eames. He has no use or patience for drawn-out explanations and he knows nothing will soften the blow, so he looks his old partner in the eyes and says, “Ross is dead.”
Megan stares back at Mike, the words bouncing off the walls, their meaning not immediately hitting her.
Ross is dead.
“That’s—I just talked to him like two days ago.”
Ross is dead.
“He’s—I asked him to be Margo’s godfather. You know I’m not really religious, and besides he’s Jewish, but it’s more of a symbolic thing.”
Mike just lets her talk.
“He said—you know—anything I needed—”
Ross is dead.
Mid-sentence, the words finally hit her like a slap in the face. The stunned look on her face makes Logan’s stomach lurch.
“What—what happened?” She’s not crying. She’s too shocked for that.
Mike repeats what Alex told him, down to the crime scene details.
“Why—would he do that? Why would he put himself at risk? He has kids!” Megan’s tone is angry. It’s easier to be angry at a dead man than to picture Danny—her friend and father-figure--slumped over with a bullet in his head.
“He’s a cop.” Mike’s voice is quiet. “He was doing his job.”
“Did somebody tell them yet—Nancy and the boys?”
Zach Nichols is at Nancy Ross’s right now, but Mike doesn’t know that. He only shrugs. “You should call Eames.”
Megan nods. She doesn’t know how else to act, what else to say. “Thanks—for letting me know.” It’s weird to feel glad for something at a time like this, but she’s glad it’s Mike standing here.
“If you need anything, Megan…” He shoves his hands in his pockets. “Give me a call.”
“I will.” It’s the truth. He’s one of the only people she knows who understands the need for a night of drinking in silence, no small talk or emotional blathering to get in the way.
A couple of minutes later, Mike is gone. He would have stayed as long as she wanted, but there’s nothing else he can do and besides, she wants to go to One Police Plaza.
Once Megan’s mother arrives to watch the baby for the night, Megan leaves her apartment for Major Case.
She didn’t cry in Logan’s presence, or when she explained to her mom why she needed her to come over. When she reaches the Major Case bullpen, she is sick to her stomach, but her eyes are still dry. The place is empty and she realizes they’re all still out on the scene. She should’ve called Eames first, as Logan suggested.
Megan turns at her name to see Liz Rodgers standing nearby. “Rodgers…” She goes over to the medical examiner.
“I was on the scene…” Rodgers’ voice cracks. “We didn’t know…when we arrived…”
…that the victim would be Danny, Megan realizes.
“The FBI wouldn’t—wouldn’t let us take—” Liz can’t finish the sentence. Wouldn’t let us take the body. His body. Danny. She starts to cry, loud, ragged sobs.
It’s only after Megan puts an arm around Rodgers that she realizes she’s crying, too. She does it quietly, though, mostly trying to comfort the M.E.
They stand like this, mourning in the center of the squad room, until Nichols arrives. He doesn’t want to interrupt them, but he’s also not in the greatest shape himself after spending the last hour with Danny’s ex-wife and sons.
Rodgers realizes he’s there first and looks up, not bothering to wipe away her tears. “How is his family?”
“Not—not that well,” Nichols says. He’s already seen the M.E. once tonight, but he wasn’t expecting to see Wheeler.
Wheeler looks at Nichols right when he looks at her. She doesn’t see her partner, but someone who is deeply connected to Danny, someone who has more memories of him than she does, and she looks away.
“I should get going,” she says quietly.
“Hey, are you—” Before Nichols can finish his sentence, Wheeler is hurrying out past him.
At the funeral, Wheeler sits in the back with Logan. They’re both wearing sunglasses and neither is in their dress blues--Wheeler, because there was a mix up at the dry cleaners and Logan because his no longer fit him.
Logan mutters inappropriate things under his breath. Stuff like, “It’s too damn sunny for a funeral” and “I’m a pro at these, you know.” She knows he’s doing it for her benefit –because he knows she doesn’t want to fall apart where everyone can see. When someone asks why they’re not in their dress blues, he retorts, “We’re here as Ross’s friends, not just outta obligation.” That, oddly enough, is what almost makes Megan cry.
She’s been worried ever since the dry cleaners informed her of their mistake, even though she doubts Danny would see it as a sign of disrespect. He’d probably be amused at all the people who have turned out. “All these people for me? Hey, I thought half these people didn’t even like me…”
When it ends, Logan pats her on the arm briefly, and then heads over to where Rodgers is standing, near Goren and Eames.
Megan, meanwhile, gets in the procession line to pay her respects to Nancy and the boys. Nichols is standing with them. She should have known. Not that it would have stopped her, but at least she would’ve been more prepared. Once she hugs the boys and tells Nancy how sorry she is, Megan goes to leave, trying not to cry. She’s so preoccupied with holding herself together that she doesn’t realize Nichols is following after her until he says her name.
She keeps walking, hoping he’ll think she didn’t hear him.
Zach doesn’t buy it for a second. “Hey. Wheeler. Partner.”
It’s the last word that makes her turn around. “What?”
“I left you a couple of messages…”
…which she had ignored. “Yeah…It’s been a bad week.”
“Tell me about it.” His eyes are full of hurt and she immediately feels guilty.
“I have to go pick Margo up from the babysitter’s,” she says.
He nods. “When are you coming back? To Major Case, I mean?” Zach is bad at keeping track of dates and time. He can’t remember if she gets six weeks or eight weeks or how long she’s already been gone.
“I—I don’t know if I am.” She can’t look at him when she says it.
Zach takes a moment to absorb this, and then asks, “Because of Margo?”
Megan shakes her head, blinking back tears.
He’s standing too close to her and she wants to run away. Zach knows this, but he doesn’t back down. “He wouldn’t have wanted you to quit.”
“I don’t want to think about him not being here every single day,” she says, her voice wavering.
“You will, though, no matter where you go,” he says. “Danny wanted you at Major Case, Megan. He believed in you enough to take you with him when he got promoted. Don’t—don’t throw that away.”
“It won’t be the same.” She’s crying now, tears sliding silently down her cheeks.
“It never is,” Zach says. He wants to hug her, to give her some sort of physical reassurance, but she’s not a touchy-feely person. Instead, he says quietly, his own sorrow evident, “Please don’t run away.”
Megan covers her mouth with her hand and starts to sob, unable to hold anything in any more.
“You can’t run away from life,” Danny told her once. It was after Colin had been arrested and she wanted nothing more than to disappear, transfer to a new unit or maybe even a new town. But she stayed, kept her head up and her life together, in part because of Danny.
Now Zach is telling her the same thing. The combination of memories, grief and the thinnest shred of hope overwhelms her, causing her shoulders to shake as Megan cries. Zach doesn’t go to hug her, but he does put a hand gently on her back. It’s Megan who holds onto him, ignoring everything around them – the harsh sunlight, the uniformed officers, the sounds of traffic.
Danny is dead. Nothing and everything will be the same. Some day—not today—it will hurt less. For now, Megan stops thinking about how to escape it all and just stands still.